Cleveland Cavaliers (23-7) 90
Detroit Pistons (15-18) 106
Just over 26 hours after taking care of the “Super Team” Golden State Warriors in the rematch of the 2016 Finals on Christmas Day, the Cleveland Cavaliers had the pleasure of traveling northwest to the Palace of Auburn Hills to take on the Detroit Pistons Monday night.
Say what you want about the regular season, but on a night following their huge win over the Warriors, the Cavs trip to Detroit was somewhat meaningless. Yes, a win would have been nice, but as long as the wine and gold remain healthy, a loss or two at times doesn’t matter so much this season, especially on the second night of a back-to-back. The Cavaliers have already proven that they can beat Golden State even without J.R. Smith, so health and being at 100 percent (both physically and mentally) are what matter most.
Here’s to hoping that any Detroit or Cavaliers fans who had tickets to the game didn’t get them just to see James play. We all know how *that* went last time James sat out due to rest.
0 – After playing 40 minutes Sunday afternoon, LeBron James sat out the second night of the back-t0-back against the Pistons for some well-deserved rest. He did what he had to do Christmas Day and was rewarded Monday night. As head coach Tyronn Lue has shown already this season, he will rest some of the Big Three sometimes when the Cavs play two games in two days, especially if the one of the games is on the road. He doesn’t want to sit players when they are at Quicken Loans Arena, but knows that rest is important when looking ahead to the postseason.
38 – The Cavs shot a dismal 38 percent from the field as a team. Yes, not having James – who is one of the best passing forwards in the history of the NBA – on the court to find open shooters most likely played into this, but the wine and gold must be able to create and make shots without him as well. Then again, they were probably a little tired after giving it their all Sunday afternoon. Without James and Smith though, the Cavs were missing two of their top four scorers.
21 – No matter who is playing or not playing in a game, 21 turnovers is too many for a championship level team. Obviously, Cleveland was missing their primary ball-handler in James, but Irving, Iman Shumpert, or whoever else has the point guard duties must do better. Then again, Shump did have a very nice play while creating for himself.
8 – He may have turned it over three times, but Kyrie Irving had yet another impressive game passing-wise, leading the team with eight assists in 29 minutes. That now gives him at least eight assists in five of his last six games and in double figures in four of those games in that span. No. 2 may be known for breaking opponent’s ankles and creating his own shot with the ball in his hands, but if he can continue to dish it out like he has been over the last week, it’s going to be hard to stop the Cavaliers. Don’t forget, Irving breaking someone’s ankles with his swift crossovers and step-back shots are the best, though.
47-46 – As WFNY’s Jeff Nomina pointed out last Friday, the Cavaliers have struggled on the boards so far this season. After outrebounding the Warriors Sunday afternoon, the wine and gold did the same to Monday night against the Pistons. Even without James, who averages 7.9 rebounds per game, the Cavs won the rebounding battle, 47-46. Kevin Love (14 rebounds) and Tristan Thompson (10) were two of the main reasons why the Cavaliers did well on the boards.
Plus-9 – DeAndre Liggins may not have scored, but he posted a plus-9 in just over 18 minutes, which led the team. In Smith’s absence, Liggins has proven that, although he’s not much of a threat on offense, he can be counted on to produce, especially on the defensive side of the ball against the opponent’s best guard and/or small forward. He could prove very valuable once playoff time rolls around.
4-18 – Cavs fans already know how important James is to his team, but maybe, just maybe, this season, the NBA will (finally) take notice. Since James returned to the Cavs prior to last season, they are 4-18 when No. 23 does not play. If that doesn’t prove that he is the MVP, what does? Don’t forget, last season’s unanimous MVP was pulled out and sat on the bench in the final seconds on Christmas Day against the Cavs because he can’t be counted on to play good defense. Is a player *that* good if he can’t play at an elite level on both sides of the ball?
Since LeBron James returned to the Cavaliers, they're 129-43 in games he plays (.750) and they're now 4-18 when he doesn't play (.182).
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 27, 2016
19:58, 28:22, 13:55 – After not playing a single second against the Warriors, Kay Felder (19 minutes, 58 seconds), Mike Dunleavy (28 minutes, 22 seconds), and James Jones (13 minutes, 55 seconds) all played significant time in Detroit. The Cavaliers may have lost, but being able to give players such as Irving and Love somewhat of a rest – even though they both played over 25 minutes – is still important. Also, the more playing time these three players (and the rest of the bench mob) receive going forward, the more prepared they will be when it actually matters.
57.1 – The Cavaliers allowed Detroit to shoot an impressive 57.1 percent from beyond the arc. That, obviously, cannot happen in meaningful games. The Pistons aren’t known for their outside shooting, but they lit it up from the outside Monday night. Whether it was Cleveland’s defense or just the fact that Detroit may have had a hot hand, the wine and gold must improve their defense outside the three-point line.